Since 1998, Papa John's Cardinal Stadium has served as the home to the University of Louisville Cardinal's football team. Its construction and subsequent opening was greeted with a warm welcome as Old Cardinal Stadium was starting to show its age. The Cardinals originally elected to name the facility after its predecessor, and then tacked on Papa John's once Papa John's founder John Schnatter, a native of nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana, donated $5 million.
Since the stadium was built, the Cardinals have watched their football program take a drastic rise to the top. Due to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the Cardinals were able to generate funding to improve both their football facilities as well as their athletic department in general. As a result, U of L was able to upgrade from Conference USA to the Big East Conference in 2005. In 2007, the Cardinals appeared in and won the Orange Bowl, an accomplishment that previously wouldn't have been possible in Conference USA.
With the overwhelming success of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the Cardinals decided to expand the facility from 2008 to 2010 to increase capacity from 42,000 to 55,000 seats. The expansion entailed adding an upper level and 33 suites to the east side of the stadium. Currently, Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is about 92% full on the average game day.
One of the premier aspects of the design is its history with the land which originally was the South Louisville Rail Yard, a historic rail car repair shop. The factory's shift horn was saved and installed in the stadium's north end zone scoreboard and sounds every time the Cardinals score. There are also multiple cabooses that tailgaters can rent on game days.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There was nothing major that stuck out with me at the concession stands. As you can imagine, Papa John's products dominated the menu while there was always a logo within a few feet of you throughout the stadium.
One thing I did like was the souvenir Louisville Cardinals Football cup that I got for $5.25. This massive cup offers more beverage than most other stadiums for a lower price while giving you a cup that will genuinely last you at home. I also like the option of paying a few dollars more for an "All You Can Drink" cup. This option will offer those who are overly thirsty an affordable deal on their beverage.
I was very surprised in the atmosphere at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Although they managed to sell just about every seat in their 55,000 seat stadium, the stadium was extremely quiet during the entire game. As I was going to my seats, I had no idea the game had just started as no one was making any noise. I have never been to a quieter stadium.
Besides the noise, I definitely was impressed with the views from the top of the newly added upper level. If you go to the top of the stadium, you will get a breathtaking view of downtown Louisville. You will also get a nice view of the entire lower level bowl area which makes for a great panoramic photo.
Also, being a fan of railroads, I loved seeing the Cardinals pay tribute to the railroad yard that was on the land before the stadium. Seeing all of the cabooses on both sides of the stadium, hearing the train horn for touchdowns, and leaving rail lines next to the station for future light rail lines makes Papa John's Cardinal Stadium a must see for me.
The neighborhood around Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is spectacular. As I mentioned earlier, the railroad heritage of the land is very visible. On the west side of the stadium, there are 14 cabooses that fans can choose to rent. On the east side of the stadium, there is another complex of cabooses on Floyd Street that fans can rent. Also on Floyd Street, there is every bit of a dozen or so eateries that serve just about anything you can think of.
What's great about the neighborhood around the stadium is its potential. Besides the light rail connection that can be easily implemented, there are also a bunch of abandoned warehouses from the early 20th century that will make for a nice student living corridor between the stadium and the rest of campus.
Also, U of L did a great job on their "sports corridor" which runs down Floyd Street next to the stadium. In this corridor, you will find topnotch facilities for all of the Cardinals' teams while incorporating public parks and recreational space around them. This area fits in perfectly with Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Lastly, you aren't too far from downtown Louisville. After the game, I headed straight for the Old Spaghetti Factory at the corner of Market Street and 3rd Street. You can't go wrong with the Old Spaghetti Factory, and after dinner, you can visit the KFC Yum Center or 4th Street Live.
Although the fans were quiet, they were also extremely loyal, dedicated, and are very knowledgeable about the game. For many years, UK fans referred to the University of Louisville as a "commuter school" that was their "little brother." Today, those two descriptions couldn't be any further from the truth.
Louisville fans have turned out in droves for Cardinal games and have held their own against their rivals, the Kentucky Wildcats. While U of L may not have the amount of fans that schools like Texas, Ohio State, and USC have, they are certainly a stock that is showing the greatest amount of improvement since the Cardinals have moved to the BCS automatic qualifying conference; the Big East.
What makes Cardinal fans special is their dedication to having both a competitive basketball and football team each year. While neighboring Indiana University and the University of Kentucky have elected to have basketball-dominant athletic departments, U of L and their fans have decided they want to be competitive in football too.
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is a very easy stadium to access no matter which direction you are coming from. If you're coming from the north or south, you will just need to take one exit off of I-65. If you are coming from the east or west, you will just need to take I-64 to I-65 and then one exit off of the interstate. There is plenty of free street parking around the stadium if you are willing to look and take a nice walk.
When you are on I-65 you can't miss the stadium and the signs directing you to it. You also have parking lots and neighborhoods with free street parking on all sides of the stadium.
Hopefully, the city of Louisville will continue looking into putting light rail from Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to downtown Louisville as this will fit perfectly with the area's theme, and it will improve accessibility to the stadium from downtown and campus.
Although I didn't like dealing with the U of L ticket office, who are very hard to get in contact with, I did enjoy the game. I also highly recommend visiting this facility as it has undergone a major facelift in the past few years.
No matter what part of the stadium you are sitting in, you will always have a great seat to view the game, and you will always be in an area that is new, clean, and state-of-the-art. You just can't beat the view of downtown Louisville from the top of the upper level. You also can't beat watching U of L football, which is steadily working their way up into the NCAA elite category.
1 Point: I give one point for the new renovations done to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Not only were the renovations state-of-the-art, they also left room for future expansions to make the facility even better. This renovation is a must-see.
1 Point: I give one point for the Cardinals incorporating the rail heritage of the land into their stadium. It's always good to see a football stadium that pays tribute and respect to the history of the land it's sitting on. It's also good to see the stadium have a unique theme to it. Tailgating in cabooses, it just doesn't get any better than that!
1 Point: I give one point to U of L for the amount of time, money, and effort they have put into the neighborhood between the stadium and their campus. U of L has done an excellent job giving each of their fans a true game day experience while enhancing their campus at the same time. U of L's future is very bright!
1 Point: I give one point to the U of L athletic department for improving their football program. During the 1990's U of L football was average and attendance wasn't close to the big schools of NCAA football. Today, U of L football is one of the premier things to see in the Southern Indiana/Louisville region.
One of the best close to campus (might as well be on campus) stadiums around. There is not a bad seat in the house and the fans are on the TRAIN. One of the nicest places to watch a game period. Every seat has a seat back, all 58k of them. Two large jumbotrons and a nice mid level terrace. Just a good job all around. Did I say beer and mixed drinks as well?
PPJ is a nice, functional stadium, but I didn't see anything special about it. It's disconnected from the campus, bordered on the east by an interstate, and the road along side it is rather dreary.
My lower level corner seats were so far away from the action, I didn't feel part of it. The Cardinals were having a down year, so the fans were very quiet and began leaving after half time, despite the close game. This was interesting because they didn't stop arriving until the end of the first quarter.
I parked fairly far away from the stadium and it was a good 20 minute walk.
Great atmosphere and stadium has extremely good sight lines, meaning there really isn't a bad seat.
Physically, the stadium is very nice. Chairback seats throughout the stadium make it comfortable and the sight lines are excellent. there are literally countless concessions, but that is an issue. If you're looking for a party, thisis a great facility. If you want to watch football, it's just boring. The fans are incredibly intoxicated, show up late, never leave teh bars and "club" like areas, and have little interest in the product on the field. It's like a strange social gathering for area residents.
It's also not in a nice area of the town. I moved here two years ago, and the area around the campus and the stadium is generally considered dangerous, run-down, and frightening by most city residents.
So, again, the phyical structure is a fine, if uninspiring stadium compared to some of hte calssic or large stadiums of power programs. But the atmosphere lags considerably behind that of most serious college programs.
Crowds sometimes show up late and leave early depending on opponent, but the crowd is amazing for big games. Easily accessible and not a bad seat in the house.
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